Kanchi Paramacharya and Bhagwan Sri Ramana Maharshi were among the great saints who lived in India and highlighted the fact that the basic approach of all religions is essentially the same, and there is really no particular conflict between them, although the rituals and day-to-day practices differ from one religion to another. These saints hailed Sanatana Dharma, evolved by ancient Indian philosophers, as the ultimate universal message to promote human harmony and decisively improve the standard and quality of one’s life. They stressed that Sanatana Dharma is relevant for all people all over the world for all time to come.
Unfortunately, a few critics in Tamil Nadu, India, have recently questioned Sanatana Dharma, causing considerable anxiety among deep thinkers. The fear is that such poorly informed criticism will lead to a counterproductive chain reaction, where non-believers (who seem to imagine themselves as intellectuals) would be emboldened to question the concept of religion itself and raise issues about the ‘unanswered questions about human life’ found in religious texts.
The Evolution of Religious Thought:
It is believed that Hinduism has no single founder; instead, it has evolved through the fusion of various beliefs. Other religions have been founded by profound thinkers. The concepts and guidelines provided in different religions have evolved and been fine-tuned over several generations, and this process continues.
Over thousands of years, deep thinkers have pondered the origin and end of human life and other creatures. It has not been possible to find an explanation for this process that would be convincing to human intellect. The ‘wonder of life’ still remains unresolved.
Sanatana Dharma, the glorious Hindu philosophy, refers to this unanswered question on the origin and end of life by stating ‘neither the beginning nor the end.’ This leaves the question to the wisdom of individuals to conclude.
In such a scenario, deep thinkers from several centuries ago must have come to the conclusion that there must be a creator (Almighty) without which the world could not have happened. This conclusion was likely based on the ’cause and effect theory.’
This view prompted deep thinkers to develop their own philosophies, which eventually resulted in the evolution of religions.
All religions agree that the world has been created by a creator (God). While different religions refer to God by different names, the referred entity is essentially the same. The basic tenet of all religions is that everyone should surrender to God from the beginning of the life process to the end without questioning the concept or the existence of God and without any element of doubt. Essentially, all religions stress that questioning this idea of God would lead individuals nowhere. Religions suggest that human intellect should be subordinated to intuition and inward realization to awaken the mind to realize God. This approach is the focus and essential aspect of all religions.
Prayer as a Pathway for Life:
As the evolution of thought processes continued, deep thinkers and founders of religions must have concluded that the best option available is to devise an ideal way of life for humans that would enable them to lead the life process with peace of mind and harmony with nature and other humans and creatures.
While insisting on placing faith in God, all religions provide guidelines for ways of living that enable humanity to live peacefully and harmoniously.
To help devotees focus their minds on God and enable individuals to introspect, prayers have been devised, such as the Gayatri Mantra in Hindu religion, said to have been composed by sage Viswamithra thousands of years ago. The Gayatri mantra is a prayer for illumination to open the mind, allowing for the entrance of more light and lofty thoughts. Over thousands of years, millions of people have recited this holy mantra and claimed a sense of mental calmness to some extent. The Gayatri mantra has stood the test of time and serves as ultimate proof that sustained prayer can elevate the thought process and lead to purity of the mind.
Sanatana Dharma – A Pathway for an Ideal Life:
Sanatana Dharma is a concept and pathway for life evolved by ancient Hindu saints, which does not distinguish between humans, animals, and other creatures and does not differentiate between individual human beings based on caste, creed, sex, or affluence. This universal philosophy emphasizes compassion, love, the avoidance of hate feelings, and violent thoughts, among several other positive attributes.
Sanatana Dharma is aimed at all of humanity and knows no limits or frontiers. The concept of Sanatana Dharma eliminates conflicts in the mindset. While some may distinguish between one religion and another, Sanatana Dharma sets no such limits.
Such guidelines for human life, as articulated by Sanatana Dharma, can only be adhered to through constant prayer and introspection. Great Indian philosophers like Adi Sankara, Ramanuja, and Madhvacharya spoke about Jeevatma and Paramatma and called for deep introspection through prayer and meditation. This points to the link between the inner self and the outer self, leading to the establishment of a pathway for humans to reach the mental state of Godliness. This state, described in Hindu religion as ‘Anandha’ or ‘a feeling of bliss,’ should be the ultimate objective that humans can and should achieve. After achieving this mental bliss, humans need to seek no further; this is the end in itself.
Why Religion Is Necessary Despite Its Limitations:
Over the past thousands of years, millions of men and women have accepted the advice provided by religions, founded over thousands of years by different deep thinkers.
While religions certainly help humanity lead a peaceful life, the fact is that none of the religions go beyond this and explain with clarity how the world came into being and what the origin and end of human lives, as well as those of animals and other creatures, entail.
To explain the question of the origin and end of life, various postulates have been mentioned by religious enthusiasts over the years, such as hell, heaven, fate, rebirth, miracles, and so on. Most people accept these mentions because no better explanation has been advanced, and nobody could provide a definitive answer to the origin and end of life, or where people go after passing away.
In this context, devotees pray to God to provide relief from suffering or bless them with opportunities. Whether such prayers are answered or not, devotees find a sense of relief through surrender and prayer, reconciling themselves by believing that the Almighty knows what’s best. This is what matters to praying devotees.
Obviously, the doctrines of religions have limitations. However, these limitations should not give the impression that religions should be viewed negatively. Only lazy thinkers would entertain such notions.
Despite their limitations, religions lay down guidelines, such as Sanatana Dharma, for peaceful living in the world and provide prayers and images of God to enable individuals to focus and introspect on the real conditions of the life process. Therefore, religions have a necessary place in human life.
It is true that basic negativism in the human mind, such as a propensity for violence, self-centeredness, and greed, has not been eliminated by religions, as the teachings of religions have not sufficiently penetrated the minds of many people. Wars and hatred persist due to foolish feelings, greed, and self-centered attitudes. Nevertheless, one should contemplate what the world would be like in the absence of religions.
Those with a negative mindset toward religions are mistaken because, in the absence of religions, the world would likely be much more chaotic and violent than it is today.